We partnered with Caesars to show you all the delicious options available on Chef Giada De Laurentiis’s latest brunch menu at GDL Italian by Giada in Baltimore. Learn more here.
The magnetic presence of celebrity chef Giada De Laurentiis envelops diners as soon as they enter her newest restaurant, GDL Italian by Giada, inside Horseshoe Casino Baltimore. Large photos of the Food Network star and a floor-to-ceiling case with her signature cookbooks greet diners inside the eatery. The warm and vibrant interior matches the TV chef’s personality, with bold colors and movie posters that pay homage to her late grandfather, legendary director Dino De Laurentiis.
When it comes to the food, fans of Giada’s shows and cookbooks will recognize many of the dishes and ingredients on the new brunch menu. The Italian-born California chef’s holy trinity of olive oil, lemon, and Parmesan infuse the dishes with bright, hearty flavors. The lemon-smashed potatoes, for instance, feature a perfect marriage of all three. Crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, they’re perfect on their own or as a side to the breakfast sandwich, an English muffin topped with spicy sausage and fried egg, tomato, and gruyere, plus a generous dollop of pesto, for an Italian twist.
Another favorite ingredient of Giada’s, mascarpone—which the chef pronounces “mas-car-po’-nay,” with an emphasis on the “e”—makes its way into both sweet and savory dishes. The rich, tangy, and creamy cheese is used in the egg mixture of the Italian French Toast as well as the whipped cream topping, which gives the former a custard-like texture and makes the latter extra decadent. Blueberries and strawberries give the dish a pop of color. The sweet dish is made with thick slabs of brioche from Maryland’s Lyon Bakery, which also supplies the fresh-made English muffins and focaccia that diners enjoy while waiting for their meals. House-made granola with yogurt and berries topped with honeycomb is the perfect accompaniment to the French toast.
Crab plays a prominent role on the menu—this is a Maryland restaurant, after all—but you won’t find the regional speciality in a typical crab cake like you might at other local eateries. The crab arancini offers a unique alternative. Giada’s take on the deep-fried rice balls includes mascarpone, which adds a creamy texture to the Arborio rice, white wine, and Parmesan interior. Whole grain mustard and Worcestershire, commonly used in crab cakes, give the dish a piquant note. “We were aiming for a traditional Maryland crab cake mixed with Italian risotto,” the restaurant’s Executive Chef Brian Drosenos says. “I personally feel like it’s somewhere in between there.”
Mascarpone also enhances the creaminess of the chitara, which is one the best pasta dishes on the brunch menu (there are three, versus the six offered at dinnertime). The ridged spaghetti, cooked al dente and tossed with peas, soaks up all of the flavor of the mascarpone, Parmesan, and lemon zest. Parsley and thyme deliver fresh-from-the-garden appeal. Herbs are a staple in Giada’s kitchen, so you’ll see them in many places on the menu. The seasonal frittata, for example, includes chives, parsley, and thyme… as well as oyster mushrooms, Parmesan and ricotta cheeses.
Another star ingredient on Giada’s cooking shows, pancetta adds a salty bite to the carbonara pizza, while nutty fontina and gruyere elevate it several notches above your average brunch pizza. The Marra Forni pizza oven, which heats the pizza to 700 degrees, gives the crust a healthy char while the center remains chewy.
The Maryland crab hash, a medley of potatoes, bacon, peppers, tomato, onion confit, and sunny side up eggs, is a standout as well, blending earthy garden notes with flavors of the sea. The sweetness of the tomatoes, peppers, and delicate crab balance the savory and salty meat nicely.
Carnivores will enjoy the meatball trio, with chicken marsala, crispy turkey, and a standout orzo meatball made with beef, veal and pork. It’s melt-in-your-mouth buttery, but still firm, and served atop a tangy tomato sauce. Panko adds a nice crust to the turkey, which has a mozzarella center.
While brunchers can accompany the meal with $20 bottomless Bloody Marys or mimosas, consider some of the more unique alcoholic beverages. The classic effervescent Italian cocktail the Bellini (also bottomless) comes in white peach or huckleberry flavors. Both offer just a hint of bitterness that ensures the drink isn’t overpoweringly sweet. Also recommended is a classic Aperol Spritz, and anyone who religiously watched Giada’s brunch shows (like this writer) will recognize the shakerato—an iced, sweetened espresso-and-vodka drink whose frothy top comes with the signature cursive “G” that adorns many corners of the restaurant, including the placemats and the barrels on top of the bar.
Guests who are lovers of Giada’s shows will be content finally tasting many of the dishes and drinks they’ve watched her make, and newbies will quickly be converted to fan status. Cheers to that.
Brunch in Baltimore just got a whole lot more interesting. Learn more about Giada’s latest menu here.
Written by Julekha Dash, a Maryland-based food, drink, and travel journalist.